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According to an article published in the *International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics,*the addition of radiation to the pelvis following surgery for the treatment of stage IB cervical cancer reduces recurrences and improves progression-free survival compared to surgery alone.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 10,370 new cases of cervical cancer in the U.S. in 2005. Fortunately, the number of deaths resulting from cervical cancer has declined dramatically over the years; this is credited to widespread use of a screening test called the Pap smear. Currently, over half of patients with cervical cancer are diagnosed when the cancer is still confined to the cervix (stage I).

Stage IB cervical cancer refers to cancer that has not spread from the cervix. However, the cancer may have invaded some tissue layers of the cervix. The cancer may also be referred to as “bulky” if it measures greater than 4 centimeters in diameter.

Stage IB cervical cancer may be treated with surgery alone, surgery plus radiation therapy, or even chemotherapy. Researchers continue to evaluate the optimal treatment for stage IB cervical cancer; side effects of treatment are weighed in relation to overall outcomes.

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Researchers from multiple institutions in the U.S. recently conducted a phase III clinical trial to directly compare surgery to surgery plus radiation therapy in the treatment of 277 patients with stage IB cervical cancer.

The addition of radiation therapy improved outcomes:

  • The addition of radiation therapy reduced the risk of a cancer recurrence by 46%.
  • The risk of cancer progression or death was reduced by 42% with the addition of radiation therapy.

The researchers concluded that the addition of radiation therapy following radical surgery significantly improves outcomes among women with stage IB cervical cancer compared with surgery alone. However, radiation therapy is also associated with side effects, so it is important for all women diagnosed with cervical cancer to discuss their individual risks and benefits of radiation therapy with their physician.

Reference: Rotman M, Sedlis A, Piedmonte M, et al. A Phase III Randomized Trial of Postoperative Pelvic Irradiation in Stage IB Cervical Carcinoma with Poor Prognostic Features: Follow-Up of a Gynecologic Oncology Group Study. International Journal of Radiation Oncology,
Biology and Physics. 2006; 65: 169-176.